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What the World Can Learn from New Zealand and Coronavirus

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Since December 2019, Covid-19 has dominated our lives, affecting the health and well-being of people and economies around the world. Each country has taken its own approach to the challenges. What can we learn as we look for best practices, those procedures that have been shown by research and experience to produce optimal results?

Dr. Paul Morrow and Emily Morrow moved from Vermont to New Zealand years ago and have an illuminating perspective on New Zealand’s experience with the pandemic. There have been fewer than 30 deaths due to Covid, and a total of about 2500 illnesses in a country of 5 million people. Life has “felt normal” for the past year. How did this happen?

Governance was where we were very fortunate. It hadn’t really sunk into me how important governance is in managing public health.
                                                                                    Dr. Paul Morrow

What is New Zealand’s governance through the pandemic? The Prime Minister is Jacinda Ardern, a 40-year-old communications expert and mother of a young daughter. Ashley Bloomfield is New Zealand’s Director-General of Health. Together they have been guiding the country by focusing on science, public health principles, economics, empathy and a big infusion of humor.

Jacinda was very clear on what the priorities were. Top priority was people’s health and saving lives and second priority was economic.
                                                                                    Dr. Paul Morrow

Jacinda made a call that we were not going to pursue mitigation here. We were going to pursue elimination. That was an extraordinarily courageous call.
                                                                                    Emily Morrow

 Here are some of the themes that Emily, Paul and Kathryn explore during this conversation:

  • When was the first Covid case in New Zealand?
  • Paul and Emily transitioned to a whole food, plant-based diet about a year before the pandemic started. What was their experience during the pandemic eating this way?
  • In addition to being a physician, Paul is also a musician. What is his perspective about the role of music in a Whole Health approach to life?
  • What was the biggest event of the day during the lockdown of April 2020?
  • What is the Team of Five Million? What is an MIQ Facility? What is the Wage Subsidy Scheme?
  • What is the role of New Zealand’s National Health Service during the pandemic?
  • How do contact tracing and genomic analysis figure into the pandemic?
  • How does Maori culture influence the way New Zealanders in general have approached the pandemic?

Our personal liberties were severely abridged but there wasn’t the blowback that there was in the US and elsewhere. Why? Because everybody trusted the government, Jacinda in particular…I believe that Jacinda’s decisions were influenced by her being a mother of a young child. She wanted to mother and take care of her people, her whanau (pronounced fanough). Whanau is a Maori word meaning family and also extended family of choice.
                                                                                    Emily Morrow

An interesting article: Opinion: The Indiginous Custom Behind New Zealand’s Covid-19 Response Washington Post March 11, 2021

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